Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Since you grew up in Texas, did you always know the
story of The Alamo?
A. Oh yes, I knew about the Alamo from as early as I
can remember, as a very small child. And in Texas schools, you
learn Texas history before you learn American history. So this
is like this great mythical story for me, which is why I so much
wanted to be part of this film.
Q. And why does the story still interest people so much?
A. Well, to Texans, it’s the story of how Texas
came into being. After the Battle of The Alamo, Texas was its
own country for about ten years – and it’s the only
state in the United States that was ever a country in its own
right – and I think that still carries over to today, to
the attitude people in Texas have about themselves. From a wider
perspective, the story of The Alamo is a story of people struggling
to find and define their identity. And I think that’s why
it’s so interesting to make this film right now. To me,
it speaks to what's been going on in this country over the past
few years in all kinds of intriguing ways.
Q. So who do you play in the movie? It’s not Davy
Crockett, is it?
A. No, Davy Crockett is played by Billy Bob Thornton.
I play Sam Houston, and Sam Houston was – well, I guess
you could, compare him to George Washington - he was the George
Washington of the Texas revolution. He was the general of the
Texan army and later became president. I'm from the city of Houston
myself, so it resonates even more for me.
Q. And Sam Houston wasn’t actually at the battle
of The Alamo, was he?
A. No, he wasn't. He thought it was a bad idea for a
small group of settlers to concentrate themselves in one place
and attempt to resist thousands of well-trained Mexican troops.
He was proved right, of course. He thought you should fight the
enemy out in the open, with hit-and-run tactics.
Q. The story of the Alamo
has been filmed many times, most famously by John Wayne, and historians
still argue over exactly what happened. Was part of the job on
this film to sort fact from fiction?
A. I really don't see much difference between fact and
fiction [laughs]. You know, myths are often more true than hard
fact, because myths are stories we feel deeply inside us. And
even though, in this film, we’re attempting to get all the
details right, the story of The Alamo still has an element of
myth about it. So you know, the events we’re telling happened
in history, but the story has a lot in common with the great Greek
myths, or even Star Wars for that matter.
Q. You previously worked with John Lee Hancock, the director
of this film, on The Rookie. The two films could scarcely seem
to have less in common. Were you confident he could pull this
A. I think that John Lee Hancock is a great director
and that The Alamo will put him in another league. To me, he belongs
in the same company as Martin Scorsese or David Lean, and I think
people will see that with this film. The big pitfall here would
have been to be too reverent or pious about the history of these
events, but John has a very definite style of his own, and an
incredibly dynamic way of telling a story.
Q. You have made a lot of films during your career, but
have you ever worked on a set that compares to this one?
A. Absolutely not. When I first got here, it was mesmerising.
I walked the 51 acres and it’s a whole town, and the attention
to detail is incredible. You know, you can walk in and out of
buildings, it’s not just a bunch of facades. It’s
really a very special experience and I don't know if it will ever
be done again.
Q. Your career has been on a roll over the last few years,
A. I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve
been for 15 years. I think there’s ebbs and flows to any
career and, back in the 80s, I was the hot guy there for a while
and then I wasn’t. But I feel now like I’m getting
back there again. You have to have a lot of tenacity to keep going,
but parts like this one make it worthwhile.
Q. This part in The Alamo sounds very special to you.
A. Yes, for me, the two most exciting roles in my career
are very clear. The first one was playing Gordo Cooper, in The
Right Stuff, and that was another Texas story in a way, because
Houston was space city and that's where I grew up. And now in
this film, I’m getting to play Sam Houston in the story
of The Alamo. I mean, I used to play The Alamo as a kid. Now I'm
all grown up and get all these great toys to play with and do
it all over again. It’s wonderful!